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Japan defeats Iran 2-1 in World Cup qualifier

Tehran, Aug 18, IRNA-Speedy Japan beat Iran 2-1 to celebrate leadership at 2006 World Cup Asian zone group B before boisterous home fans in sultry Yokohama Wednesday.

Supported by more than 65,000 true-blue spectators, the Japanese made scores of attacks on the visitor's woodwork until the opener in the 28th minute.

Keiji Tamada duped Iranian full-back Hossein Ka'bi before his low cross dodged in-form keeper Ebrahim Mirzapour and two players, leaving the unmarked midfielder Akira Kaji alone with the unguarded net to find from close range.

Depleted by absence of six exiles, the Asian powerhouse Iran found it too difficult to weather the Japanese storm, which swept its porous defense line several times.

In addition to heavy atmosphere and sweltering heat, the post was against Iran too, denying the veteran skipper Ali Daei just before the interval.

Iran had a better possession of the ball after the break as Croat manager Branko threw on midfielder Iman Mob'ali and right winger Javad Kazemian.

Striker Masashi Oguro made it 2-0 on 75 minute, when his header passed the goalmouth after hitting the stick and Mirzapour.

Talismanic striker Daei reduced the arrears with his trademark penalty kick two minutes later, bringing his untouchable tally to 105 in his 141st cap. The 36-year-old was brought down by his importunate marker Yuji Nakazawa.

The victory helped Japan leapfrog Iran and stand top on 15 points, two ahead of its archrival's.

Iran had overcome Japan 2-1 in the first leg in Tehran in March.

Japan and Iran won tickets to Germany, the venue of 2006 World Cup, in June.

"We've had earthquakes, typhoons and political arguments along the way but we've come through," Japan Coach Zico told the crowd after the match.

"This team has the self-belief and the mental strength to overcome those sorts of obstacles. We still need to improve but finishing top will give us a lift before the World Cup."

Ivankovic, for his part, said, "I think you saw both teams prove they are the best teams in Asia. I was happy with the way we came back in the second half. We showed a lot of character."

In another Asian zone qualifying match in Seoul, South Korea was beaten 1-0 by Saudi Arabia.

Mohammad Al Anbar headed home just five minutes after the kickoff, putting the icing on the cake.

Saudi Arabia retained the top spot in Group A with 14 points out of six matches and South Korea's 10 points remained unchanged.

Both teams have already qualified for the world's most prestigious sporting event.

... Payvand News - 8/18/05 ... --

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